Africa: DRC and Guinea Revel in Unexpected Surge to Last Eight At Africa Cup of Nations

Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was the hero as South Africa beat Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes to advance to the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.

In a tournament of surprises that have run from acid trip translucence into the zany, Democratic Republic of Congo versus Guinea in the quarter-finals ranks as pure psychedelia.

Neither outfit were spectacular during the pool stages. Guinea drew with Cameroon, scraped past Gambia 1-0 and lost quite ploddingly to Senegal to muster four points and a place in the last-16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.

DRC drew all their three games in Group F to progress to the knockout stages as runners-up behind Morocco.

Their last-16 assignments posed very different questions. Guinea faced an Equatorial Guinea side bubbling with confidence after topping a pool containing Nigeria and hosts Cote d'Ivoire who they emasculated 4-0.

But the Guineans neutralised the verve and snatched a late win at the Alassane Outtara Stadium in Abidjan.

DRC skewered the Egyptians in a 20-minute penalty shoot-out of stomach curdling intensity which culminated with the goalkeepers taking kicks.

Gabaski's shot for Egypt tonked the crossbar and boomed high into the San Pedro night sky. Less than a mintue later, the 35-year-old still had a chance to redeem his wretchedness.

But Lionel Mpasi stepped up and unfurled sleek technique to convert his kick.

It took the DRC into the last eight for the first time since the Cup of Nations added another elimination round following its expansion to 24 teams in 2019.


It's also a debut for DRC coach Sébastien Desabre who led Uganda to the last-16 at the 2019 tournament in Egypt.

"The win against Egypt was a great moment for the team," said the 47-year-old Frenchman on the eve of the game against Guinea.

"We know we can pay against the biggest teams but we have to show our ambition again. We know we'll be in for a tough match."

DRC will need more of that fortitude against Guinea who rode their luck against an Equatorial Guinea side which had been reduced to 10-men with the dismissal of Federico Bikoro in the 55th minute.


Emilio Nsue missed a penalty mid way through the second half for Equatorial Guinea who were only a few seconds away from taking the tie into extra-time before Mohamed Bayo headed the winner.

The goal also took Guinea coach Kaba Diawara and his squad into legend as the first team from the country to win a knockout tie at the Cup of Nations since 1976.

Back then the tournament was an eight-team affair with the the top two sides from each group going into a second phase round robin - the winner of which was designated champion.

"The victory against Equatorial Guinea means a lot," said Diawara. "We knew the historic nature of the match so it's a feeling of pride.

"We must look ahead. We will prepare better becaus We want to go as far as possible."

Since the Confederaton of African Football - which organises the biennial tournament - expanded the competition from 16 to 24 teams i 2019, neither Guinea nor DRC have reached the semi-finals.

"When you go into a competition it is with the aim of going all the way, even if we have never been lucky enough to get to the semi-finals before," Diawara told the news agency AFP.

"This time we can see that the path is opening up for us."

The winner will take on Mali or Cote d'Ivoire on 7 February in Abidjan.

"It's exciting to be here at this stage of the competition," said DRC defender Gedeon Kalulu. "It's going to be a new test for us but we're calm."

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